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The delay in finalizing negotiations between Los Alamos County and the Boyer Company has some residents concerned that the Trinity Place project is never going to happen.
Final details are not the only concern, however. During the county’s strategic planning meeting on Feb. 27, Councilor Mike Wismer brought up the suggestion that the county may want to look at a contingency plan if the deal does fall through.
Given the state of the economy, many retailers are struggling and the ability to secure an anchor for Trinity Place has been questioned.
Boyer Company, based in Utah has a lengthy portfolio, which includes build to suit projects, government, industrial, medical, office, residential and retail projects, as well.
On the retail end of the spectrum, Boyer has constructed 17 projects and currently has two that are in development. Of the two developing projects, Trinity Place is one and the other is another mixed-use development called Valley Station, located in Heber City, Utah.
Trinity Place is to sit on 42 acres, have an 110,000-square-foot retail anchor, 43,000 square feet of retail space, 32,000 square feet of office space, a 10,000-square-foot restaurant, 15,000 square feet for entertainment, a boardwalk along the canyon rim, a lower level canyon jogging/walking trail, 34 units of residential lofts and 290 units of multi-family residences.
Valley Station is going to have a Wal-Mart as its retail anchor, entertainment venues, retail shops and multi-family homes. The square footage on each of the developments, however, was not available.
Talks on the Trinity Site Revitalization Project began in October 2005. Nearly four years later, residents are still waiting to see some sort of action take place that would signal that the Trinity Place project is in fact underway.
So far, county staff has remained adamant that negotiations with Boyer are still being worked out.
Mark Anderson, the city manager in Heber City, said his town has not had any problems with Boyer as far as getting the details for Valley Station hammered out. The development, however, did face on obstacle when Wal-Mart was announced as the retail anchor.
Many Heber City residents opposed big box stores and business owners felt that they would be adversely affected if a big box store moved in. As a result, the issue was taken to referendum.
During that time, the project was put on hold as residents and the city waited to see whether the referendum would pass. It did not pass and Wal-mart was given the green light to move ahead as the retail anchor for Valley Station.
Anderson said Lowe’s Home Improvement also expressed interest in being a part of that development, however, when the economy took a downturn, Lowe’s decided against it.
Anderson said the decision to move Wal-Mart in was ultimately that of the Boyer Company.
“We looked at what type of retailers would fit into this market and Wal-Mart seemed the best fit. We’re too small for a Target or a Costco,” he commented.
“There’s no buildings under construction, but Boyer has subdivided the land and has spent several million dollars in improvements to support the development of the property,” Anderson said.
He also said Wal-Mart is undergoing a change in branding, with hopes that they can make their corporation “green.”
In addition, Anderson said Wal-Mart has laid off several hundred people, so they are working on a new building prototype for Valley Station, which will be smaller. As a result, Wal-Mart is holding off on moving into the development until they complete their prototype and branding project.
“We’ve been working at this project for about three years. We’re hoping that construction will start in about four months,” Anderson said. He also said that he feels as if the negotiations with Boyer have progressed fairly well.
However, he also said that there have been some difficult times associated with the project but says it’s to be expected of a project of that size.
Despite the obstacles that Valley Station has faced, Anderson is still confident in Boyer’s work.
“Most communities would be happy to work with Boyer. They’re a proven company. They have staying power and they continue owning their projects. They don’t just develop and leave,” he said.
Indeed, it would seem that the developments constructed and managed by Boyer have not been extraordinarily susceptible to the economic downturn. The Gateway, located in Salt Lake City, Utah, has been open since 2002.
So far, they are 99 percent occupied, with only one 2,700 square feet vacancy. Sugar House Commons, in Sugarhouse, Utah, has been open since 1999 and is 100 percent occupied. A newer project, Quarry Bend in Sandy, Utah, opened in 2007 and so far has 60 percent of the shop space open.
In addition, Quarry Bend has also opened up the apartments and townhouses that are part of that development.
When asked about the progress of Trinity Place, Boyers’ project manager Dave Nielsen said they know where they’re at, but they have to finish agreements with the county.
“We’re working with the county on a couple of different proposals to make it work,” he said. He wouldn’t give a timeline as to when he feels that the negotiations would be finalized, but he did say that his goal is to have negotiations finalized within the next 60 days.
Nielsen also said there’s still a demand for the project. “The people we’re talking to are still interested in moving forward. It’s always been said that we’d have the project completed towards the end of 2010 or the start of 2011,” Nielsen said. “If we can get access to the site, it’ll be a year to 14 months from now. If we can come to terms with the county, we can stay on track.”
Assistant County Administrator Anthony Mortillaro said the county and Boyer are about 90 percent through finalizing negotiations.
“We received additional information from them yesterday (Monday) regarding the proposed modifications to the agreement. We’re in the process of evaluating those,” he said.
Mortillaro said it will take the county about two weeks to respond to Boyer because he needs to meet with councilors in closed session so that he can get council’s input on the proposals.
“If the stars and moon align, I’d like to see this wrapped up in May, but it’s hard for me to put a projection date on it,” Mortillaro said. “We have a date (for completion), we’ve had for several years for when Boyer would like to convey the site to us and that date is June 2010. We keep that in mind.”
“We know that we have to get our demo done by that date so we can convey that site to Boyer. We also have to have all our agreements done in advance of that so Boyer knows they can have an agreement, so they can start doing their detailed drawings and get their contractor lined up.”
The agreement between the county and Los Alamos Schools appears to be slowing moving forward.
“We’re continuing to meet with the county to work out details and have a meeting scheduled for Monday,” LAPS Superintendent Mary McLeod said this morning.
Mortillaro also said Boyer has secured an anchor for Trinity Place, but declined to reveal who it is.
“That announcement will be made by the Boyer Company,” he said. “It’s moving as quickly as it can. It’s a standard process. There’s nothing unusual about what’s happening.”
He said the challenge with this project is that it’s much different from other projects that may occur in other communities where the developer may own the land.
“When they’re going on leased land owned by a municipality or a school district, it gets more complicated because we have statutory provisions that must be met. On top of all that, it still has to go through the state board of finance for approval,” Mortillaro said.
He said that county staff is committed to getting the project completed as expeditiously as possible and wants to make sure everyone’s interests are covered.
When asked if the county had a contingency plan, should the deal with Boyer fall through, Mortillaro said the county has discussed a contingency plan, but would not elaborate on the details of such an alternative.
“We have contingency plans that we are working on that we’d consider. It’s a concern,” Mortillaro said.
County staff will meet with council sometime after March 24, in closed session, to discuss the new proposals that have been received from the Boyer Company.